Design, cost concerns plague proposed Orleans Parish Jail facility
By Zach Labbé
July 12, 2023
NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The Bureau of Governmental Research released a report supporting a review of the design and cost concerns for a proposed jail facility in Orleans Parish.
Dubbed “Phase III,” plans for the new facility were submitted in 2017 and would address deficits in the care of incarcerated people with mental health needs.
It’s a move that came nearly four years after the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office entered the federal consent decree to address unconstitutional conditions within the jail.
The plan includes an 89-bed facility with areas for an infirmary, laundry, counseling, and visitation that would link to the main jail by an elevated walkway.
In 2020, the current city council stopped the project and asked the court to allow them to adapt the main jail’s second floor. The court rejected their suggestion.
The sheriff filed a motion in June 2023 to reverse the court’s decision, leading the federal judge overseeing the consent decree to schedule a hearing for July 17.
Part of the issue at hand is the design of the building. Officials with the sheriff’s office said the glass-front jail cells facing the security station could cause a person dealing with a mental health issue distress. They also cited the need for sing-occupancy cells.
As for cost, the city council estimated the project to cost around $51 million. That was less than two years ago. Now the project is projected to cost about $109 million, exceeding what the city allocated. Now the city is requesting the court conduct a financial review.
BGR says they are impartial to the legal aspects of the project but suggests the court look deeper into these design and cost concerns to ensure city funds are used efficiently.
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